Where sports and politics collide, Georgia loses

January 13, 2015 Atlanta: Supporters look down on the Standing for Religious Freedom Rally at the state Capitol Tuesday January 13, 2015. The rally was in support of fired Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran. Cochran was terminated for controversy surrounding his self published book "Who Told You You Are Naked?", a 2013 book that some consider critical of gays. Mayor Kasim Reed contends Cochran was fired for not following rules, including not getting clearance to write the book. Hundreds gathered at the state Capitol before heading to city hall to deliver more than 40,000 petitions to the office of Mayor Kasim Reed. BRANT SANDERLIN / BSANDERLIN@AJC.COM

Supporters look down on the Standing for Religious Freedom Rally at the state Capitol last year. If the bill is passed by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, it will jeopardize Atlanta getting the Super Bowl and other major sports events. (Brant Sanderlin / bsanderlin@ajc.com)

There have been many times when I’ve stepped into the dark underworld of social media to comment on a subject unrelated to bats, balls or the SEC that my words incite only the Internet’s version of a backhand: “Stick to sports!”

But rest assured: This is about sports.

It was about sports when Muhammad Ali used his platform to protest the war in Vietnam.

It was about sports when Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised clenched, black-gloved fists against racial injustice.

It was about sports when Billie Jean King spoke, and Arthur Ashe spoke, and Jason Collins spoke, and when Branch Rickey made the boldest signing in professional sports history, and when countries have boycotted Olympics, and when Jesse Owens ran to glory and humiliated Adolf Hitler.

Sports often has been central to social justice. Athletes, teams, sports leagues, universities have a platform. Using that platform in the hope that it effects change should not bring about some mindless shallow and borderline Neanderthal response like, “Play ball and shut up. Fred, pass the pork rinds.” Sports’ ability to influence change should be embraced.

“Sport has the power to change the world,” Nelson Mandela said. “It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.”

It doesn’t matter to me whether you agree or disagree with the “homosexual lifestyle,” nor if you believe it runs contrary to your chosen religion (or, more accurately, how you perceive your religion’s doctrine). Freedom of speech, freedom of religion, the right to assemble and call your government leaders a bunch of idiots — those freedoms are yours to embrace.

But when a potential law effectively legalizes discrimination and infringes on someone else’s Constitutional rights — as Georgia House Bill 757 surely does — that’s a problem. It’s everybody’s problem. It’s a problem in the “real” world and the sports world.

I asked the NFL to respond to Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill — a backwards moniker if there ever was one — and the nation’s most powerful sports league responded with a forearm shiver to state legislators.

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, “NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”

As I wrote Friday, some statements force you to read between the lines. This one hit like a sledgehammer carrying the words, “No Super Bowl.”

Falcons owner Arthur Blank is building a new stadium for his team that is scheduled to open in 2017. The thought that Atlanta might not be allowed to host a Super Bowl, or possibly another major sports event like the Final Four, would not go over well with Blank. (The NCAA said it is “monitoring current events.”)

I don’t want to make this all about money because I’m sure the Falcons, Braves and Hawks, all of whom quickly followed the NFL with statements, have a moral compass and an understanding of what’s right or wrong. But sometimes that compass won’t lead them to speak out like a potential economic avalanche well.

And so, we had Blank saying, “One of my bedrock values is ‘Include Everyone.’ I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors. House Bill 757 undermines these principles.”

And the Braves saying, “House Bill 757 is detrimental to our community and bad for Georgia. Our organization believes in an environment that is inclusive of all people. We are opposed to any law that endorses discrimination against anyone.”

And the Hawks saying, “The Hawks strongly believe in the values of inclusion, diversity and equal rights, core principles by which we operate our business and are essential elements in making Atlanta a leading global city.”

The Hawks had the only one of the four statements that didn’t directly reference the specific bill or the Georgia legislature. Not surprising. The team is trying to secure public funding for a renovation of Philips Arena.

But it was only three weeks ago when part-owner Grant Hill, speaking at a meeting for Georgia Prospers, a coalition of state businesses, said the “religious liberty” bill could harm Atlanta’s chances to land major events. “It is so important to keep alive the values of good sportsmanship, fairness and inclusion that were ingrained in me as an athlete,” he said.

The Hawks, in their defense, were the only pro sports team to participate in the annual Atlanta Pride Festival in October and gave out commemorative T-shirts. The Braves will have an “LGBT Night” for the sixth consecutive season. Both franchises also had specials shirts and hats for sale. The Falcons have not held a special event, but expect that to change, especially given the franchise recently was embarrassed when an NFL draft prospect said a Falcons assistant coach asked him during an interview, “Do you like men?” Not a good look, even if said jokingly.

Hill referenced the concepts of “fairness and inclusion.” How was this lost on Georgia legislators in the name of Christianity?

I’m Jewish. I guess I should just be happy I have a job and I’m allowed to live here, given that word circulated centuries ago that my ancestors killed Jesus.

Perhaps we should bring back public stoning?

Proponents amusingly suggest the bill protects the rights of free religion and free speech, when in fact it does just the opposite. It runs contrary to a Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage — and for all we know could open the door to discrimination against single parents, divorcees, vegetarians, Prius drivers and people who wear sweat socks with black dress shoes.

The NFL’s veiled threat to block a Super Bowl should go over great with the same legislators who only last week passed a tax break on tickets should the game be awarded. In other words, they’re so desperate to get the game that they’re willing to eat a potential $10 million in tax revenue.

The sports world reacted. Of course the sports world reacted.

Franchises and athletes are high-profile ambassadors for a city. Teams care about what people think, whether they will spend their money, whether free agents will want to come here to play or live. They care about hosting championships, bowls and All-Star games.

The NFL stripped Arizona of the 1992 Super Bowl and moved it to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., for the state’s refusal to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Arizona might have lost the Super Bowl again in 2014 if Gov. Jan Brewer had not vetoed a law similar to the Georgia bill. (The league reportedly was pondering moving the game to Tampa, Fla., on short notice.)

It’s one thing for politicians to be so out of touch with reality. But how do they not see this backlash coming? How do they not expect sports teams and corporate America (Microsoft, Google, Home Depot, Coke) to denounce their knuckleheadedness?

If you’re looking for a punching bag in all this, start with Georgia state Sen. Greg Kirk, the bill’s sponsor. He referred to the corporate outrage the other day as a “scare tactic.” Then came this: “We have international businesses in this state who do business in countries that chop off the heads of homosexuals, and they never say a word about that.”

Sen. Kirk, the floor is now yours. And pick up your head.

Recent ramblings from the Digital Jukebox

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52 comments
OH:IO
OH:IO

All going according to plan.....divide, blame, deflect, distract and ultimately destroy. 

dtanner311
dtanner311

jeff people like you vastly overrate the importance of sports in our society, when it comes down to it just dumb ballgames

OH:IO
OH:IO

@dtanner311


Replace "sports" with "politics" and you might just have it. 

tomwdatl
tomwdatl

Read the bill then tell me explicitly where the problem is.

I read through it and could not find anything objectionable.

A lot of people commenting without even knowing what the Bill says.



Caius
Caius

Selective Christianity,or more proper, Cafeteria Christianity has been on the upswing for several hundred years. Seems to have reached its highest point within the last 40 years.


"Bible says no same sex marriage" goes the preaching..


Bible also says no divorce and remarriage without adultery but that seems to be okay and is no longer preached against, except for a couple of denominations.


That is why cafeterias are popular, the ability to pick and choose.



Paul Simon
Paul Simon

Now does everybody get it that local elections matter ?

GaLatino
GaLatino

Here's what I don't understand about the LGBT community when it comes to these "marriage" related services.  Why on earth would you WANT to have your cake baked or your wedding pictures taken by someone who finds your lifestyle immoral and vulgar?  A wedding, gay or straight, should be a happy occasion.  Wouldn't it kinda ruin the moment to look back at pictures of your wedding cake and know that both the photographer and the baker hated everything about having to do that job? 


Or are you more militant, and sorta relishing the fact that you got to shove your homosexual nuptials in someone's face???

Lucy Salazar
Lucy Salazar

Let's not turn this into a Christian bashing. I have to say that I'm torn on the subject because of my Christian beliefs. On one hand I know that gay marriage is wrong in God's eyes, so I understand the passion in these people's stances. That being said - we are all sinners! And who am I to judge the way the next person sins? That is their own issue, when it comes their turn on judgement day... But I have to say that this argument is kind of dumb to me. People should not work in positions where they feel their faith is contradicted/jeopardized/at risk...(I'm sure y'all get the point). People who feel that strongly about the issue shouldn't work in the type of positions that would hinder someone else's legal rights to gay marriage! It's that simple. Find another job if someone else's personal life choices bother you that much. As Christians, we are supposed to love each other and bring people to God...it is not our job to be judge, jury, and executioner! Go read a bible and let go of all that self righteousness!

Steve Morris
Steve Morris

Pass the law, I could care less about a billionaire

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Remember, its crucial that the LGBT community get to put cake bakers out of business - rather than just go down the street to another baker who wants their business.  


In the name of "tolerance, love, peace, and cant' we all just get along".  


After all, tolerance is just for me, not for you.  You have to agree with me, no matter what your deeply held religious beliefs are.  Because "tolerance".



Love the hypocrisy.  I personally hope it keeps up.  Situations like this just expose them for the hypocrites that they really are.

dawg fan
dawg fan

@dcdcdc  What if a muslim business didn't want to serve Christians because we are infidels and it goes against their "deeply held religious beliefs."  I'm sure you'd be just fine with that wouldn't you?  I'm sure you're not a big fat hypocrite at all. 

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

@dawg fan @dcdcdc What if a black cake baker didn't want to make a KKK cake.  Or a Jewish baker didn't want to bake a Nazi cake.  But...but...but  that would be OK, of course!!  Because...tolerance!


It would be so hard to down the street to someone who wanted to do business with me.  Said no one who wasn't blinded by hate, ever.  

But that would be true "tolerance".  Not the fake "tolerance for me, but not for thee" kind the LGBT community practices, as they put people out of business for their deeply held religious beliefs.

ugadawg89
ugadawg89

@dcdcdc @dawg fan  It may be hard to find another business. Everyone in this state doesn't live in Atlanta where there are a number of choices. What about those folks that live in small rural towns that may have very limited options. Should they have to drive to the big city? And why would someone go into business to deal with the public, but only certain members of the public? If your beliefs are so deeply held, which you have every right to have, maybe that should weigh into the decision.

dawg fan
dawg fan

I'm a Christian and I could absolutely care less if gay people want to get married.  It has nothing to do with me.  This is the biggest freaking waste of time in the history of the world.  What a bunch of spoiled little children if this is all you have to worry about.  Kids are dying in Africa of starvation.  People are getting bombed to death in the middle east.  And we're sitting here b!tching and moaning over Tom and Bob getting married.  Most of the world would thank their lucky stars to have "issues" like this.  If you're so worried about the institution of marriage then cry us a river over the sky high divorce rate and dead beat parents who do nothing for their children.  I don't see any of these anti-gay people up in arms much about all of that.  My church won't marry gay people (as is their right) but has no problem marrying divorced adulterers who walked out on their wife and children.  I've seen it with my own very eyes.  Where is all the self-righteous indignation over that?  There isn't any.  What a bunch of BS hypocrisy.  Get a life and get over yourselves.       

Laura Evans Majors
Laura Evans Majors

Christians are just upset that now they can't pick on non-christians anymore. They're upset that how people can treat them the way they've always treated others.

Ken Paulk
Ken Paulk

I'm a Christian (of the Methodist variety), and I can assure you that I am COMPLETELY opposed to this legislation. It is about as UN-Christian as any bill could be. Please don't use this as an opportunity to bash Christians, or to bash all Georgians for that matter. Plenty of us have written and spoken out against this awful and potentially disastrous, wrong-headed bill. And I'm not just opposed because of the expected economic effects; it's just wrong.

Ken Paulk
Ken Paulk

The same "lawmaker" who has sponsored this bill also sponsored (unsuccessfully) a bill to make English the "official language" of Georgia. Yet another example of his pandering to the far-right fundamentalist fringe that seems to have hijacked Georgia (and Southern) politics. As I have written/e-mailed him several times, I wish he would just stop "protecting" us.

richf71
richf71

So when is the NFL going to prohibit Super Bowls is sanctuary cities?


This is none of their business. Shut up and play football.

George Estelle
George Estelle

It is just a shame that in this day and age that lawmakers must use their time to react to the supreme court enabling equality by creating laws to restrict that equality. It feels like 1964 again with the way they are trying to refute progress and hide behind the bible. How about working on the states economy; education (which we are 49th in the nation) and infrastructure.

TrueFan1
TrueFan1

The people have the right in this state to vote if we want this bill or not....Your opinion don't mean crap....Majority rules...deal with it children..

adarian652
adarian652

How do those clowns under the State house dome get a bill pass that discriminates and surely going to cost jobs and not allow the people, the people to have a chance to vote for casino or horse racing in which can create jobs??? I know how I am voting for now on!!!

PappyHappy
PappyHappy

Have a problem with the overall premise of the 'purpose' of the legislation.  Is the bill designed to allow folks to discriminate if they feel the person they are serving (i.e., LGBT) has a different sexual orientation than they?  In all of our infinite wisdom, HOW ARE WE GOING TO KNOW??


How about the color of their skin?  (That once applied in Georgia!)

How about national origin?

How about religion itself?  Do we want to be allowed to only serve Baptists, Catholics or Jews?

How about individuals who are convicted felons, who return to society? 


Here is my problem with this legislation: 


1) Are we, or are we not Christians?  If the answer is yes, then why do we want to discriminate?

2) What is the real economic impact on innocent workers, and job growth in the State of Georgia with this law?

3) And finally, how is it that the 'Bertha Better than Yous" seem to be pushing for this legislation, yet they have some house cleaning they have failed to conduct!  Note the following!


http://www.myajc.com/news/news/in-boy-scout-sex-abuse-case-small-town-secrets-rev/nqnpm/?ref=cbTopWidget

Joyce Mitar Morgan
Joyce Mitar Morgan

no Christians will loose Jeff Schultz, we need to be protected, and I dont give a rats butt about sports and we need to stand on morals in this state and country....your a leftist.. all this is blackmail by all the sports corporations, the SEC etc....pure un-adulterated black mail and if Deal vetos it, he looses votes and many peoples trust and he will have shot himself in the foot, no one will vote for him.

Cliff Harrison
Cliff Harrison

He loses votes? Votes for what? He's in his 2nd term. He's done; no more elections. Do you people even educate yourselves before arguing?

sbatl
sbatl

Well, you seem to be very well-informed. Deal isn't running for office again and therefore will not need any more votes from morons like yourself. He will do the right thing and veto this useless bill. 

atlcarl
atlcarl

So for the past 15 years , America has lost over 6,000 troops DEAD , and over 2 TRILLION dollars spent , in a war to the death in Afghanistan and Iraq against radical Muslims ( the Taliban , Al-Queda , ISIS ) whose SOLE reason is to FORCE their version of Sharia Law and other radical Muslim religious beliefs on their fellow citizens , other Muslims , and indeed the entire world .  My son volunteered to be a US Marine , and for the past 11 years has served with a Marine fighter bomber squadron , blowing the enemy to their judgement day . He served a COMBAT tour in Afghanistan with his F-18 Super Hornet Squardon, So please explain to me how it is now okay for certain Christian believers to FORCE their specific religious beliefs on their fellow citizens , and other Christians and religions .  Why does America  spend untold volumes of our precious troops blood and national treasure to fight Sharia Law , and Muslim religious tyrannies , if we are going to allow religious LAW under a different name to be shoved down other peoples lives , right here in the USA ?  By the way , when the Roman soldiers , along with the Pharisees and Saducees arrested Jesus to crucify HIM , and one the disciples CUTOFF an enemy soldier's ear , with a sword , WHAT did our Saviour do ?  He placed the enemy's ear  back , HEALED him ( one of the last miracles of healing before the Cross ) and commanded his follower to put away the sword . So why don't radical Christians FOLLOW Christ , and SHOW Mercy and Forgiveness , even facing death , like Jesus Christ did ?

BocaBaby
BocaBaby

Schultz, you say it does not matter to you if the homosexual lifestyle bothers those who have religious convictions opposing said lifestyle.  And you want to draw previous public expressions opposing discrimination by sports figures as a basis for social change.  The problem is that we don't live in a live and let live world. And to be sure it is the activist LGBT crowd who goes out of its way in an attempt to force their deviant life and world view on other who oppose it.  Further, homosexuality is  condemned in the scriptures (and you don't care about that but I guarantee one day you will) whereas the other examples of social injustice exposed by sports figures had a biblical basis in which to do so.  It was Martin Luther King Jr. who opened the white man's bible and shoved it in his face. On a biblical basis discrimination was rooted out and exposed for what it is.  Now those opposing a biblical morality want to claim that it is outdated and "Neanderthal." Please forgive me if I defer to the God who is there and to his revealed, inspired and inerrant word because in the end he will have the last word. 

mar1049
mar1049

@BocaBaby Interesting how one can use MLK as a basis for their belief in discrimination. 

Truthmoses
Truthmoses

“We have international businesses in this state who do business in countries that chop off the heads of homosexuals, and they never say a word about that.”


Who is 'we"?  I am guessing he does not mean the state of Ga, but someone like google.  Sir, you represent this state, not google. Oh, and we kill people in this country, too...dead is dead..

General Concern
General Concern

Whether or not millionaire athletes play a game in this state or that doesn't matter a tinker's dam next to whether we have government prosecute people because they will not participate in someone else's private ceremony. 

Sashelby
Sashelby

Jeff -

Interesting take on the Religious Liberty bill. Funny though that I don't recall your previous articles on what an outrage it was that Hobby Lobby was being forced to violate their religious values by providing contraceptives.

Also must have missed your article about how wrong it was that those gay activists felt absolutely compelled - and essential to their self esteem - to force Christian bakers to bake their wedding cakes. I mean because, lord knows, there are absolutely NO gay bakers in existence who would have loved the business.

Whenever someone forces someone else to violate their religious, moral or ethical principles, because they feel they have some innate right to do so, you are going to cause these kinds of reactions.

Surely, as a man of Jewish faith, there must be some, maybe just one?, belief that you hold so dearly, that if asked to violate them, you would just have to say No? Even if it costs you business? Your job? Your standing in the community? Your livelihood?

As Rodney King once said, "Can't we all just get along?" Can't the gays have their weddings catered by gay caterers? And gay bakers prepare their wedding cakes?

We live in a troubled world. One where we have national Save the Whales campaigns, yet we have a law that allows the killing of babies.

Maybe we should have listened to Rodney, and if someone doesn't want to get along with us, maybe it would be better for us to just "get along" with our lives and find someone who does get along with us. We don't have to focus on punishing everybody who doesn't agree with us.

mar1049
mar1049

@Sashelby I assume you had no problem with the way Rodney King was beat by the police as long as he was around to say "Can't we all get along?"

Jeff Criswell
Jeff Criswell

As a Christian, I am far more concerned with the rights of Christians to freely exercise their faith, than Atlanta to make a buck on a sporting event. And, Schultz, by the way, some Jews were in fact complicit in the death of Jesus Christ, even as other Jews faithfully followed Him and spread the word of His resurrection.

Michael Dillinger
Michael Dillinger

America - land of the free home of the brave ****Christians only

James Beck
James Beck

Time to get some help Jeff, you have let that brainwashing get to you wayyyyy too much.

Al Brantlinger
Al Brantlinger

and how about the rest of us who would prefer not to have your 'values' thrust upon the rest of us? Freedom for others is NOT bondage for yourself.

Åwet Goitom Woldegebriel
Åwet Goitom Woldegebriel

so funny Jeff Criswell I think the same logic was made when Christians defended slavery...."As a Christian, I am far more concerned with the rights of Christians to freely exercise their faith" time has moved on but people misinterpretation of the "teachings" continue.....

Jeff Criswell
Jeff Criswell

Åwet Goitom Woldegebriel Georgia is filled with tens of millions of Christians, none of whom own slaves. These Christians do not want the values of a tiny group forced on them.

Al Brantlinger
Al Brantlinger

'Tens of millions' in a state with a total population of 10.1 million?

Jeff Criswell
Jeff Criswell

Michael Dillinger Jesus loves you, my friend. Come to him while you can.

Garry Spinks
Garry Spinks

It's sad when we care more the impact of sports and new stadiums than real issues.

Garry Spinks
Garry Spinks

Not sure I am following who you are referring too

Al Brantlinger
Al Brantlinger

Perhaps a moment of insight and asking why people perceive Christians in such a way is in order. Spoken by a Southern Baptist.

dcdcdc
dcdcdc

Meanwhile, another AJC article in todays paper, Atlanta has created more jobs than just about any other major US city.


But when the purpose is a "political agenda", not the truth, then our intrepid AJC reporters can just make stuff up.  Just ignore the actual facts.


And one wonders why the AJC paid subscriber base is plummeting - not.